UKRAINIAN DIASPORA IN AUSTRALIA – 65 YEARS
The XIV National Ukrainian Festival will take place in Sydney from 7–9 June 2013 under the slogan “Past, Present, Future!”
Arrival in Australia
This year we are celebrating 65 years of Ukrainian settlement in Australia. Although 65 years may appear to not be a long time, there are now three generations of Australian–Ukrainians.
The Ukrainian diaspora in Australia is one of the youngest of any Ukrainian settlements in the world. Ukrainian families first began arriving in Australia in 1947. Between the beginning of 1948 and the end of 1949 some 10,000 Ukrainians, predominantly political refugees (displaced persons), arrived in Australia.
Prior to 1948, only a small number of Ukrainians had arrived in Australia and as a result, an organised Ukrainian community did not exist. There is evidence that after the First World War, individual Ukrainians arrived, together with groups of Russians, via Manchuria and Harbin (China) and settled predominantly around Brisbane.
Data from the 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates there are 37,800 people of Ukrainian descent living in Australia.
The early years for our Ukrainian pioneers in Australia were quite difficult because they arrived with very little. There were no community structures and no forms of assistance, apart from government directions where they should work for two years to pay off their passage. Most had no English language skills and as DPs were required to work as manual labourers, even though quite a few of them had a university education. However, with determination and hard work, Ukrainian community life steadily evolved.
The Demographic Structure of Ukrainians in Australia
Most Ukrainians settled in the major cities: Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Smaller settlements emerged in Perth, Brisbane, Newcastle, Wollongong, Geelong, Sunshine, the La Trobe Valley, the Australian Capital of Canberra, and nearby Queanbeyan. A small community of Ukrainians also lives in Tasmania and individual families live in Cairns and Alice Springs.
In most of the above cities there is an active Ukrainian community consisting of State Associations (Hromady), Ukrainian churches, Ukrainian Scouts “Plast”, Ukrainian Youth Association (“CYM”), Ukrainian Women's Association, Ukrainian schools, Credit Unions, a number of socio-political organisations, mixed choirs, dance ensembles, bandura ensembles, literary and theatrical groups, museums, sports clubs (mainly soccer, volleyball, golf) as well as professional and business associations. There are also Ukrainian Youth Association (“CYM”) and “Plast” Ukrainian Scouts camping grounds, where youth organisations hold their summer camps, festivals and recreational activities. State Associations (Hromady) play a vital role in that they are the structures which unite Ukrainians within each State.
The second generation of Ukrainian settlers completed their education in Australia and many are still working today according to their professions which include doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers, engineers, computer specialists and business.
The Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (AFUO) is the peak representative body for Ukrainians in Australia. It represents the entire Ukrainian community, maintains strong ties and links with the Australian Federal Government, State and Territory Governments and Oppositions. The AFUO is a member of and has kept close ties with, the Ukrainian World Congress. Likewise it has a strong relationship with the President of Ukraine and the Government of Ukraine.
Today, the values to which the AFUO and the Ukrainian community continue to aspire remain that the Ukrainian community is based on Christian and national ideals, is inclusive and open to all who wish to be involved, sees itself as an integral part of Australian society; and is an integral part of the Ukrainian Nation.
Cultural and Artistic Activities
The Ukrainian community's external activities in Australia are most visible in the performances of artistic ensembles and individual artists. Through dedicated concerts and participation in mainstream events, individual artists have attained popularity and acknowledgement. They popularise Ukrainian arts and culture amongst the Australian community, bringing the Ukrainian community in Australia to the attention of public opinion and generally arouse in many Australians an interest in Ukrainian issues as well as in Ukraine.
Ethinic Language Schools (once referred to as Saturday or evening schools) and kindergartens operate in the larger Ukrainian communities. Today, after 65 years of our settlement in this country, even though the number of students in our ethnic language schools has diminished, there are in 2013 approximately 300 students enrolled.
The Ukrainian Studies Foundation of Australia (founded in 1974) funded lectures in Ukrainian Studies at Macquarie University in Sydney (1982-2008) and assists with funding for Ukrainian Studies at Monash University in Melbourne.
In some States the Ukrainian language is recognised as a Year 12 (matriculation) subject.
Material Acquisitions of Ukrainians in Australia
The material acquisitions and accomplishments of Ukrainians in Australia during the past 65 years of settlement are such that any Ukrainian community in any country in the world would be proud to have achieved so much, with so little in such a relatively short time.
There are Ukrainian Community Centres and Churches – both Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic including a Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, Credit Cooperative Centres and other community buildings. It should be noted that the community has attained assets that far exceed the proportion of settlers in Australia. This is due to the fact that there are wide distances between the major communities which are dispersed throughout Australia.
A number of memorials have also been built to honour those who tragically perished during the Holodomor (artificial famine) in 1932-1933, for those who laid down their lives for the freedom of Ukraine, and in honour of 1,000 years of Christianity in Ukraine.
New migrants from Poland (in the 1960-1980's), from the former Yugoslavia (especially Bosnia, in the 1970s and 1980s), and more recently from Ukraine, have boosted community numbers. However, more immigration is required to strengthen the ageing community, to revitalise it and continue to keep the community vibrant and fresh.
Over the years a number of Ukrainian newspapers have been published in Australia. Today there are two newspapers, The Free Thought (Sydney) and Church and Life (Melbourne).
The Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations has published two volumes about the Ukrainian community in Australia, entitled “Ukrainians in Australia”. “Ukrainians in Australia”, a bi-weekly newspaper ceased its publication in the mid 1980’s.
Humanitarian-Medical Assistance for Ukraine
The Ukrainian Women's Association has provided much needed humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. With the assistance provided by the Ukrainian Medical Association in Australia, medicines and medical equipment was delivered to a number of hospitals in Ukraine. Our doctors, when visiting Ukraine, take with them surgical instruments, literature and other medical supplies. They participate in surgical demonstrations, consultations and lectures in medicine. The Chornobyl Children's Foundation and others have also provided assistance to Ukraine's hospitals and orphanages.
Links with Ukraine
More open relations with Ukraine started in 1989 with the visit of a Member of the Ukrainian Parliament (People's Deputy), poet Dmytro Pavlychko, the then President of the Taras Shevchenko Ukrainian Language Society.
After Dmytro Pavlychko’s visit many others also visited Australia: politicians – among them former President of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, and Member of Parliament and poet Ivan Drach; head of the World Co-ordination Rada of Ukrainians; Volodymyr Yavorivskiy, Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council of Ukraine); former political prisoners of USSR concentration camps Bohdan Horyn and Levko Lukyanenko; Bishop Pavlo Vasylyk; President of the Kyivan-Mohyla Academy Vyacheslav Bryukhovetsky; writers; artists; singers; ensembles; professors; professionals of various fields; business delegates; sports people; and in 2000 the Olympic and Para Olympic Teams of Ukraine visited Australia. The list of visitors is quite extensive.
From an Australian perspective, cultural journeys to Ukraine were undertaken by many and continue to grow. Amongst them Bandurist Viktor Mishalov (who studied in Kyiv), the "Veselka" Dance Ensemble, the Volodyrnyr Ivasiuk Ensemble, the "Lastivka" Ensemble; and St Andrew’s Ukrainian School, all from Sydney; CYM "Verchovyna" Dance Ensemble from Melbourne; "Kashtan" Ensemble from Adelaide; students from the Ukrainian School in Sunshine; and children from the Ukrainian School and Ukrainian Youth Association in Perth.
Others participated in international congresses and world conventions which took place in many countries including Ukraine.
Diplomatic links with Ukraine started with Australia's recognition of Ukraine’s Independence in December 1991.
Official links with Ukraine began on 16 January 2000 with the arrival in Australia of the first Consul to Ukraine, Vadym Prystaiko, and Consul-General Vasyl Korzachenko, who arrived in May of that year. Prior to this, the late Zina Botte had been appointed the Honorary Consul in Melbourne, and following her death, her husband Larry assumed the role.
On 14 April 2003 the General Consulate of Ukraine (in Sydney) became an Embassy (in Canberra). The Consuls of Ukraine and former Ambassador Oleksandr Mishchenko and currently Valentyn Adomaytis have worked, and continue to work, closely with the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations.
During these 65 years of settlement in this country, Ukrainians in Australia have accomplished a great deal for Ukraine and have achieved a worthy place in multicultural Australia. The community has strong potential to grow and continue be a strong contributor to individual and family life and to the broader Australian community. Are we up to the challenge?
The Ukrainian community has been politically active over the past 65 years. During the period of Soviet occupation the Diaspora kept the world informed of the national and human rights abuses in Ukraine. Committees, rallies, demonstrations and the lobbying of Government were well organised and held regularly.
The Holodomor (artificial famine in Ukraine) in 1932-1933, the demand for national rights, and the support of political prisoners were but some of the issues.
In 1991 local communities held rallies asking the Australian Government to recognise Ukraine's Independence and to establish diplomatic ties, which it did.
In 2004 the Orange Revolution brought Ukraine onto the world stage. In 2008 the International Remembrance Torch Relay to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Holodomor commenced its journey from Canberra from where it travelled to 33 countries. Awareness of the Holodomor was raised worldwide.
Although Australia is far from other continents where Ukrainians are settled, representatives of the Ukrainian community in Australia took part, and continue to take part, in Congresses and the World Congress of Ukraine, political groups, youth organisations and festivals.
Much has been achieved over these 65 years of settlement in Australia and Ukrainians have attained a worthy place in multicultural Australia. We have made Mother Ukraine proud and will continue our activities, as there are many of those who are ready to protect and further advance the heritage of our forebears.
Even though the pioneers of the first 65 years have passed on, they laid a solid foundation for church, community and political life. Already a number of times we have renewed the leadership of our structures. The call to current and future leaders is a responsibility to maintain the Ukrainian spirit, to love and take pride in one’s own culture, and to continue to be encouraged by the respect in which we are held by the Australian community.
As we enter the next 65 years, the challenge before us is will we, as the current custodians of our forebears efforts and achievements, be as committed and supportive in ensuring that the Ukrainian spirit lives on and flourishes?
We still have an important role to play in the future development of Australia as a democratic, egalitarian, multicultural society that can hold its head high in the world, be an example to others on how different communities work and live peacefully side by side. We will never defer from our duty to the wider Australian community”.
Many happy returns to the Ukrainian Community in Australia!!!